In defense of my research on plant defenses

Before I switched careers from scientist to science communicator, I completed an MSc in biochemistry, and for the last 3 years I’ve been wondering how I would ever explain to someone outside of my niche research field what my project was actually about. Unless you are a plant biochemist, the title of my dissertation would give…

INFOGRAPHIC: What are DNA profiles used for?

DNA profiling has revolutionised criminal justice globally and in South Africa. The graphic below was created in 2012, to accompany a feature on the potential promise and pitfalls of a DNA database as set out in the then ‘DNA Bill’. The DNA Act was signed into law in January 2014, and since then I’ve often come across stories of successful…

HIV-related kidney disease: genetics may play bigger role than access to healthcare

“I got this on the street somewhere in Uganda, during an educational visit for the International Society of Nephrology,” says Professor Saraladevi Naicker, pointing to a hand-painted map of Africa on the wall. Naicker, a kidney specialist, has a passion for medical education and has been instrumental in setting up training programmes for African graduates.…

Eye exercise important for kids’ vision – Scifest 2015

Sixteen-year-old Kelly Jardim spent a week with grade ones to find out if three eye muscle exercises she designed could improve their reading abilities. “It all started when my little cousin got glasses,” she explains. She had been worried that her cousin, Diego Camara, would get teased, and she wondered if glasses prescriptions for young…

#SAscienceHero: Daynia Ballot, Neonatologist

When Dr Daynia Ballot is on call she’s responsible for about 100 babies. In the neonatal unit, some of the new-borns are on ventilators and many are sick. In the paediatric intensive care unit, others are fighting for their lives. As a doctor working in an academic hospital, Ballot’s responsibility is to treat these babies,…

It starts with a zozo in Kuruman

It’s eight o’clock in the morning in the Northern Cape town of Kuruman. At a small clinic, two nurses are about to start attending to the 60 or so patients who began queuing early on. Half of the patients fit inside the little waiting room; the rest wait outside, including a young mother with her…